Caravanserai Magazine Archive

Published 1988-2000 semi-annually on behalf of the Sufi Movement International by the Sufi Movement in Canada.


1990 Volume 5. Wali van Lohuizen. "Mysticism in Daily Life"

In the spirit—and sometimes in the wording— of Hazrat Inayat Khan's philosophy, this paper will try to explain three issues. One is that mysticism is a divine gift to each human being and a human potential for a better life. Another is that this potential lies in the expansion of consciousness, consciousness being the carrying force in life. The third is that mysticism is not something other-worldly; rather it is a way of life. Mysticism should be completely integrated into daily life. To make a start, some consideration will be given to the question, what is mysticism like.

Mysticism is generally considered to be an exceptional condition of the human mind experiencing a state of union with the One, generally either in terms of God or of a Saint or Messenger or another spiritual or religious ideal. Some include in this definition the ecstatic experience of an individual losing himself in a rapture caused by concentration, meditation and prayer towards the Ideal.

Question 1: Is mysticism indeed limited to some individuals who are exceptionally gifted in this respect, or is it rather a potential of all human beings?

Many scholars have noted the striking similarity of the mystic experiences of followers of different religions, irrespective of the fact that Christians unite with God the Father, or Christ, while Hindus unite with Rama or Krishna. Research has virtually excluded the possibility of widespread falsification, or pure imagination (see William James). Psychologists, however, may maintain that mysticism is a process of the mind, an imagination; though containing full reality, this is not Reality, but just the reality of an individual's mind.

Question 2: Is mysticism the actual unification of one's soul with the Ideal, through God's grace poured upon the individual?

Based on a keen study of the lives of well-known mystics, and particularly of their own reports on their experiences, scholars like Evelyn Underhill conclude that generally this realization of Unity is a final stage of a process, the mystical way or the mystical quest. This process may take quite some time. In exceptional cases, it may happen in a few hours but generally a good deal of one's lifetime might be involved.

Question 3: Is this process something that can be done only outside the world of daily affairs, or can one follow this path while being in the world integrating one's inner and outer life into one whole?

Let us summarize and reformulate the three questions:

1. Is mysticism limited to some gifted (or even abnormal) individuals, or is it rather a genuine human potentiality (stronger in some, weak in many) carrying in itself the seed of spiritual development, of perfecting the heart, mind and body?

2. Is the actual mystical process of transformation something that happens to one's mind, to one's heart, or to one's soul? Is it transcendent or immanent in character?

3. Is treading the spiritual path/undergoing the spiritual process only possible under the condition that one parts
with the world by retreating into solitude, either in a monastery, a khankah, a vihar or in nature itself? Or is there, on the contrary, a chance of progress on this path by mutually integrating one's inner and outer lives, sharing all odds with one's fellowmen? Should the adept just focus on his/her personal development, or is he/she a social being deriving spiritual development from the way one deals with the others?

I will try to answer these questions mainly by referring to the spirit of the teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan. Mysticism in his teachings is not restricted to a certain occult science. It is the knowledge of being—or rather, of Being. It is learnt by the 'analysis' and the 'synthesis' of the whole life, both seen and unseen; its method is living and meditation.

Prior to mysticism is 'psychology,' the knowledge of human character and human nature rather than a certain system of psychology. It is learned by the 'analysis' and 'synthesis' of all we can feel in human nature and character; its method is thinking.

Prior to both is 'philosophy,' the knowledge of things perceived by intelligence, by intuition, rather than a certain philosophical system. It is learned by the 'analysis' and synthesis' of things perceived by the five senses; it is the study of things.

"These are the three steps to the altar of divine wisdom."

Mysticism as a Divine Gift and as a Human Potential

Mysticism is nothing new or secret; it is what your soul knows already, but it is veiled by mind and body, by our sensations and emotions, by our experiences in the world. Therefore mysticism is the process of unveiling.
The origin of mysticism lies in intuition: "First there was intuition, then reason and logic."

Mysticism is neither a creed, nor a principle, nor a dogma. These are man-made things.

A mystic is born a mystic: look at his temperament, his outlook on life. It is a certain type of mind. There are the souls who are pure, gifted with a mind and heart with a great potential for love, harmony and beauty. Yet mysticism may be acquired, for the roots of love, harmony and beauty are inborn qualities in each and every human being. The human soul is light itself. It is a ray of the Divine Sun, a spark of Divine Light. Therefore mysticism can be developed and acquired, and that is a greater achievement even, and a blessing of happiness to both the person and his surroundings.

Mystics do not belong to the East not to the West, there are as many born here as there are born there. In the East, though, the mystic may be welcomed, while in the West he is considered to be a stranger. But do not mix up occultism with mysticism, as you will not consider every clever person to be wise.

What is mysticism? It is the finding of the self, of the Self., This in itself is indicative that mysticism is a basic human quality. What is this self? "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you." In that search, the mystic finds himself. Mysticism therefore teaches communication with the self and thus enables you to communicate with life.

What is a mystic? He has developed qualities considered to be genuinely human, and he does so to a greater extent than the normal human beings do. A mystic is more responsive, observant, perceptive, outgoing, appreciative, sympathetic and harmonious. He has developed gentleness, mildness and kindness, bearing fruit and giving it to all, willing to serve all who need his service. He can endure and he will stand firm. He acquires insight and is inspired. And he shows innocence and simplicity, love for all and sympathy; he is God-conscious. He has centred his mind on the cosmos, when his consciousness is no longer an individual consciousness. A mystic shows equilibrium and balance, as for example between beauty and power. He has his head in heaven but his feet stand firmly on the earth. He uses reason, but love and harmony are his instrument and goal. Therefore he is religion.

Mysticism is the development of the heart quality, and what is more human than the heart? The heart is at the basis of the formation of a person. The heart is the depth of the spirit, the deepest depth of man's being.

At present, less importance is given to sentiment, relying more on intellect. It even seems that the intellectual person is more balanced because he is supposed to be less emotional. But we confuse emotion with sentiment, with the finer feelings perceived by the finer organs. Therefore the intellectual person proves unbalanced if he has not developed the sentimental side. He then becomes sceptical, doubting, unbelieving and even destructive. The problem is that there is no power in the heart to balance it. Therefore devotion is the best thing to cultivate in the heart for spiritual realization. Where is it to find God? In the loving heart of a kind human being. We need patience to get this sentiment to be developed. It is the widening of the heart, the awakening of the inner feeling. We need repose to sense this sentiment, it is only in silence that you can hear the finer vibrations. Repose, thoughtfulness, balance, consideration are all aspects of one and the same thing: the finer sentiment residing in the depth of the human heart.

Concluding, the mystic tendency is a basic human quality which occurs in every single individual, the intensity of which will vary to a great extent. We may compare it with music. Only a few people are talented musicians or composers; many have a strong feeling for music; some others do not care for it at all. Yet the musical feeling proves to be innate, as through careful education each individual can develop musicality to a greater or lesser degree.

Of course the term 'education' must not be associated with schools and courses, but rather with a call appealing to the heart and the soul. And a silence must be created, both literally and metaphorically.

When the lips are closed, then the heart begins to speak.
When the heart is silent then the soul blazes up, bursting into flames
And this illuminates the whole life.

Mysticism: The Expansion of Consciousness

The consciousness is the intelligence; the intelligence is the soul; the soul is the spirit; and the spirit is God. Therefore consciousness is the divine element, consciousness is the God-part in us. And it is through consciousness that we become small or great, and through consciousness we either rise or fall, and through consciousness we become narrow or we expand."

Raising the consciousness is thus the striving of the mystic, and the culmination of life. The best means is to have an ideal, the Ideal: the God-ideal. This functions as a stimulus, as a pulling power, as an inspiration, as a beloved, as the Beloved. Life is as the sea: the rising and falling of the waves. Rising means to constantly climb towards one's ideal, falling means that one remains beneath one's ideal. In the selection of one's strivings one can strengthen the raising forces and 'unforce' the falling power. The work of the mystic is to expand the scope of life, to make its range as vast as possible. If you slip, and try to go on, you will become more sure-footed. Slipping is natural. Do not lose courage, do not allow your consciousness to be impressed by it; fix your gaze on the ideal; sympathize with it; love it.

The moral of the mystic thus is the love principle— towards the Ideal and therefore (!) towards his fellowmen. It is the lesson, T am not, you are!' By expanding the consciousness from oneself to the person we are sympathizing with, we 'forget' ourselves a little bit, we will understand his point of view, and thereby grow in wisdom. It is the first step on the path of unification, towards Unity. Inwardly we may touch that one life everlasting, dissolving into it, becoming conscious of that One Spirit, being the existence, the only existence. Outwardly we feel in touch with all we see, we feel at one.

Mysticism is an outlook on life: the same things which previously we would look upon as being alien or even inimical now gradually merge, they tend towards harmony and beauty, because we fall in love, we sympathize.

It is also an outlook because by discovering the inner dimension one finds that what seemed to be real is unreal, and what looked like otherworldliness is a Reality encompassing all and everything: all-pervading, omnipotent, omnipresent, the Only Being.

The God-ideal is both the stepping stone and the goal. One must have something before one to love, to worship, to adhere to, to look up to, to raise high, and therefore be raised high oneself. In order to attain this ideal, one must prepare oneself, primarily by mental purification: relaxation/repose, concentration, contemplation, meditation, that is, in the last instance, to purify oneself, to free oneself, to open oneself to the light of Truth. Divine prayers are both the beginning and the end; the beginning because they tune and focus body and mind on the Divine Perfection; the end because only after complete purification does communication become possible. It is then that the soul, being of Divine light, can reflect its Origin and Goal. It is then that one's ideal is larger than that covered by a name. Through love and devotion alone one can forget oneself. The ideal is always more than our imagination, and even more than our realization. Therefore a devotee has always scope for expansion, for advancement.

Concluding, the mystic process is not just a psychological process, but may be likened to alchemy: through the development of the Spirit, our whole being is transformed.

"Let me forget myself, Lord, that I may become conscious of Thy Being."
'When the human heart becomes conscious of God it becomes like the sea;
it extends its waves to friend and foe; spreading further, it attains perfection."
"The mystic contemplates upon the Being of God,
and so raises his consciousness
above the limitations of time and space
and liberates his soul
by lifting it to the Divine spheres."

Mysticism in Daily Life

A mystic has his head in heaven and his feet firmly on the ground. That is the typical approach of Hazrat Inayat Khan. A real mystic should prove to be an inspired artist, a wonderful scientist, an influential statesman. A mystic without knowledge (and practice) of worldly affairs is a half mystic. Therefore, there are many half and quarter-mystics; these differ amongst themselves. Real mystics do not. Why not?

Those on the spiritual path are prompted by the ever-flowing stream of sympathy. Their fellow-creatures are made in the image of God. All of us are part and parcel of the Divine Consciousness, of the Divine Mind. Life is a great symphony. Our duty is to play our own part, and to contribute to the creation of divine harmony in the world. Without harmony there can be no happiness. Harmony is the first principle to be observed. This is not easy, as we will not bend, out of pride, self-consciousness and self-will. Many good people are not harmonious: their goodness does not work out, its results are not up to the intentions. Sacrifice is necessary, and a great effort.

When someone is angry, it may satisfy us to be angry, too. Is it not so!?! However, let us rather try to discover the joy of smiling when the other one is angry! What difference in experience this is. It is as not giving fuel to the fire. And the same applies to jealousy, hate, prejudice, bitterness.

The process of mystical development is the annihilation of the false ego in the real. The true ego, which is the ego of the Lord, has become a false ego in ourselves (false+less true). The soul has conceived a false idea of itself. The ego appears in different degrees of intensity, the most intense being the egoistic one: he is hard on others (and also on himself), he becomes blind to justice and devoid of life, and therefore of love. He sees in everyone a pronounced ego, and derives from it the idea that the other one is egoistic: his ego is hurt by the sight of others...

All methods to bring about better conditions for humanity will fail if the psychology of the ego is not studied from a mystical point of view.

Therefore the way of action in the midst of the world is of utmost importance in mysticism. For that very reason, life in the world is necessary if one wants to go the spiritual path. Few know the effect of their actions. Each thought, word and deed creates a power in itself. What is the guiding principle when deciding for an action? Is it consideration? Refinement? Patience? Thoughtfulness? Yet these are the qualities resulting in a harmonious way of life. Here is the test whether we are indifferent and independent to the needs and wants of our false ego.

And what about being observant, responsive, appreciative, sympathetic, outgoing, gentle, mild, kind? Traditionally, these qualities are supposed to develop under strict control of the senses and the mind, through discipline and self-containment. But what is the mystic's way of control and discipline? Love, sympathy, devotion, being natural, giving time and scope for expansion, for settling, for growth. The sign of saintliness is not in power of words, or a high spiritual position; it is the continuous springing of the fountain of love and sympathy gushing from the divine fountain in the human heart. Turn that fountain on, and it will purify your heart, making it transparent. Therefore the mystic's moral is love. It first manifests in reciprocity. When the heart grows it can sustain more and carry heavier loads, manifesting in beneficence. And when the false ego loses its power, love manifests in renunciation. Or to put it in a more down to earth way: to develop a sense of seeing the right proportions, weights and measures. What is 'right' will depend upon one's spiritual development, that is, the dimension in which one sees things.

Mysticism culminates in brotherhood. This is an inner inclination (although we generally show the opposite). Mysticism makes one more tolerant towards opinions, more able to rise above divisions, to assimilate, to understand, to appreciate and admire. What is brotherhood? Being respectful to all beings, having sympathy towards everyone, understanding the conditions of the other one through sympathy and respect, and thus being tolerant and forgiving, culminating in the feeling of being united with the other one, with everybody, not only in God but even in himself.

By mysticism understanding, sympathy and brotherhood can be established both within oneself and amongst others.

Can a person reach perfection by love alone, without meditation? Or by meditation alone, without love? Hazrat Inayat Khan states as an answer to this question: "Man meditates because he cannot really love. When one really understands 'love,' it is too sacred to utter. People fall into love, few only rise in love." Ecstasy does not come through seeing spirits and other phenomena. It comes only when the heart is tuned to that pitch of love which melts it, makes it tender, gives it gentleness, makes it humble. Love manifests in love of all, making man a fountain of love, pouring out over humanity that love that gushes forth from his heart.

It is not necessary to be unconscious of the world while being conscious of God. Even social conditions and human interrelationships cannot really improve unless the mystical outlook becomes widespread. Religion is not confined to a shrine on Sunday: it is daily life, and in daily life one's realization of religion is tested. Mysticism is the only common basis and foundation for religions to meet, understand and unite, while keeping their own creed, form and traditions.

To Sum Up

1) Mysticism is a genuine, essential human potential.

2) The mystical process is a process of expanding consciousness of the soul, transforming heart, mind and body; it is both transcendent and immanent.

3) Treading the Sufi path is to be a social being, contributing to the symphony of love, harmony and beauty.

There is one God, one Truth, one Religion, one mysticism. Mysticism is not a branch of philosophy, knowledge, etc. It is the very stem. Many houses of worship, yet one God. Many scriptures, yet one Truth, many methods, yet one Faith, the annihilation of the false ego in the real, which raises the mortal to immortality, and in which resides all perfection.

The Sufi message is the message of love, harmony and beauty.

The mystic makes his heart an instrument for the Divine Being. His heart reacts to the Divine Light, his heart is liquid. The condition of the heart of man depends on his reflection of the Divine Light. In our hearts there are moments of a calmness so great that it charges the whole atmosphere, or moments when the power in man rises to wash away all troubles and worldly affairs.

"Mysticism without devotion is like uncooked food: it can never be assimilated."
"The fire of devotion purifies the heart of the devotee and leads unto spiritual freedom."
"The aim of the mystic is to keep near to the idea of Unity and find out where we unite."
"Mysticism is an experience."

Everything is summed up in the invocation prayer:

Towards the One,
the perfection of love, harmony and beauty,
the only Being;
united with all the illuminated souls
who form the embodiment of the Master,
the spirit of Guidance.


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